Somewhere along a forgotten branch of your family tree, there she is.
Somewhere deep in your lineage, there's at least one, maybe two, maybe even quite a few more whom you know nothing about -- relatives who, when they were alive, never made a sound or ruffled any feathers, hidden like thwarted relics, long deceased but right now whispering at the top of their ghostly lungs straight into your most lucid, semi-hallucinogenic dreams: "Get the hell on with it, already."
Can you hear them? Can you possibly say there are no closeted gay or lesbian, radical or repressed relatives back in your family history -- people who, due to the times and constraints under which they lived, never in a million years could have lived the life you are now free to lead, never could have revealed their true selves in public, much less celebrated that self, much less (heaven forfend) married someone they actually loved, gender/kink/ideology regardless?
The dead know all truths. The deceased inhabit all answers, insights, nationalities, genders, deviations and abstractions and gods. And it's a dead certainty that many of them are observing this era's ludicrous buffet of culture wars and political battles, and are spinning in their graves, rattling their chains, writing on the shower-steamed mirror: "Carpe the damn diem, good people. Don't you get it?"
I'm right now reading the astonishing tale of the first gays and lesbians to openly graduate from American military academies.
I'm reading about how, thanks to Obama and the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, a serious milestone in human history has finally been reached, the very first time that one of our most eternally macho, homophobic-by-design institutions next to NASCAR, Coors Light and gangsta rap now allows gender fluidity and honest sexual expression. You know, more or less.
It's OK to be a little amazed. The U.S. military -- after no small amount of legal coercion and serious scowling -- has now officially outpaced the church, the GOP, social conservatives, Mormons, black preachers, Mitt Romney, Fox News and your Republican grandparents in nearly all matters of gender, female empowerment and fundamental sexual freedom. Is it not a thing?
I'm watching Obama pay his Memorial Day respects at Arlington National Cemetery, and I cannot help but wonder: How many secretly gay soldiers are buried there? How many were there in Vietnam, in WWII, in in the Civil War?
Wider still: How many radical feminists, artists, individualists, wild poets of bygone eras were trapped like animals in cages of religious dogma and social/familial stigma, forced to toe the moral line, marry against the grain of their soul, live a narrow and constricted life that their own deepest spirit recoiled against every minute of every single day? How many are there, comparatively, today? Is it not shifting? Opening? Can we not celebrate, even a little?
It's worth pondering, before we sacrifice all perspective to the gods of modern political bickering, thinking we got problems, thinking we got it so bad, thinking we're the only ones who understand hardship and toil and roadblock.
Maybe you're one of those who prefers to look through your rose-colored history glasses, who longs for "simpler times," hand-written letters and rotary phones, virginity until 25 and giant cars that got 5MPG going downhill.
Maybe you're someone who believes that the sepia-toned generations who came before were somehow nobler, made of tougher stuff, were more stoic in face of brutal forces such as the Great Depression, the Industrial Revolution, the Black Plague, especially when compared to the wimpy Millennials of today whose biggest complaint is a clunky Facebook redesign or the lack of free WiFi on the plane. You would certainly have a point.
But know this now: Progress kneels at the altar of the young. Evolution loves chaos theory, the fossil record and cocktails that smell like sex and tattoos and dark matter.
And the dead very much wish they could be you right now, no matter how much you are bitching about the issues of the day, no matter how much you think you got it bad...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently learned how to properly spank a nun, requested that you please join his Tantric yoga sex cult and begged you oh my God please do not eat this. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...
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